"A tree that fell across Route 148 and took down two utility poles in Sturbridge hampered traffic during graduation ceremonies at Tantasqua Regional High School. The commencement went on despite the power outage.
Power was still out along Route 148 at 9:30 last night and one lane remained closed. It was unclear when work would be completed in that area. " -- Worcester Telegram and Gazette June 7, 2010
Well, I'll tell you how long it took National Grid to make the repairs to two downed poles: about 15 hours.
Fifteen hours to replace two poles, and repair the damaged wires that came off the poles when a tree snapped in yesterdays storm and fell onto them.
We loss power here on Route 148 mid-afternoon on Sunday. After a couple of hours the family piled into truck and we went off to reconnoiter the damage in the area. About 1/2 mile north was the reason we had lost power. A huge tree from one side of the road, fell during the storm and took out the poles and utility lines on the other side of the road. Traffic was being diverted away from the scene as a crew worked to remove the tree from the wires. At this point, with the sun now shining brightly, we took a ride over to Monson for an ice cream at the Westview Farm. After a couple of hours, or so, of ice cream and riding about, we came back to check on the progress of the repairs. There was a National Grid truck parked in the parking lot at the Compatible Canine store on Route 148.
Good sign, I thought.
I then drove up Collete Road in order to come onto Route 148, look north and assess what was happening with the repairs, and then head back down 148.
When we go to the intersection of Collete and 148 there was but a lone Sturbridge police officer standing guard, and directing traffic through the now one lane highway. The poles were still broken, the wires untouched, the tree had been cut away, but there wasn't a National Grid truck, or employee around. The police officer stood alone. This was the extent of the repairs after five hours, or so.
I asked the officer what the status of the repairs was, and he gave me one of those looks. You know the kind, the ones usually preceded by a deep sigh. He then gave us a verbatim report that National Grid had given to him. "...so don't expect the lights on till between 5 and 6 in the morning.", he said.
What? It is two poles. Over twelve hours to repair two poles? Many times have I seen cars take out poles on major roads with a multitude of wires, and cables on them and have it repaired in a just a few hours, and often times in the middle of a storm, too. The storm had passed. However, it was a Sunday.
Overtime. Probably more than plain time and a half, too. Maybe there was a very small repair crew on for Central Mass, as well. That is not good, either. No one on call in case of emergencies, or multiple emergencies?
I can live off the grid, no issue besides inconvenience, but this is not an issue of my inconvenience, it is an issue of a repair that took too long, and in today's society, it does become a matter of safety. Imagine if many poles were downed, or just one more in town. Then what? Another "ice storm extravaganza"? Extrapolate it out any way you want, the end result would not be good. Repairs would take far too long and necessities such as traffic lights not be working for just as long.
The National Grid crews are out there in all kinds of weather repairing all sorts of damaged lines. I don't blame them for the long delay in fixing the outage. It is a management issue.
So what now? Well, first of all the Selectmen in town need to be aware of this, and then they must formally make an inquiry of National Grid, and if necessary, a complaint with the Department of Public Utilities. I'm a customer of National Grid, and a resident of Sturbridge, but as much as I would like National Grid to respond to my inquiry, they will be more responsive with the Town and DPU.
Now, I understand the work involved. I have seen all before, and I have seen much more damage repaired way faster. So, understand that I am concerned about this one incident, this one time, this one storm. Nothing more.
The late afternoon and evening wasn't a total loss. Mary and I traveled up to Wal*Mart, and bought a couple of small LED lanterns for the family to use, an additional LED flashlight, and a large fluorescent lantern. These were things we had needed to add to our emergency supplies anyway, and the power outage gave me the push I needed. I also grabbed some ice, and put the perishables in the fridge in a few coolers.